Roberts's Files From 80's Recall Big Debates of Era

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Only an indistinct portrait of the young John G. Roberts Jr. emerged in thousands of pages released on Monday by the National Archives from the Supreme Court nominee's years in the Reagan White House. But the documents do provide a vivid reminder of the debates that consumed official Washington in those days.

Some of the issues remain pertinent, while others are long forgotten. Anyone expecting the nearly 5,400 pages of documents, dating from late 1982 to mid-1986, to contain the key to the kind of Supreme Court justice that Judge Roberts would be is likely to be disappointed.

Whether abortion opponents should be permitted to bury thousands of fetuses in Arlington National Cemetery (no); whether a new appeals court should be created to ease the Supreme Court's workload (also no); whether the administration should endorse a new approach to raising the wages of women who work in heavily female occupations (emphatically no, with caustic commentary by Mr. Roberts) - these are only a few of the topics that documents in the files address.

Mr. Roberts, then in his 20's and serving as an associate White House counsel, did not actively work on all of the subjects. Many of the files consist of little more than newspaper clippings and judicial decisions.

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